We’re really beginning to get the déjà-vu feeling here this spring. After just 24% of our ‘normal’ rainfall in March we’ve barely seen 10% over the past month. Its hardly enough to dampen the surface, and not much over this weekend either.
One of my client’s very accurate rainfall record-keeping reveals a grand total of 3mm of rain last month. But back in April 2007 he had only 1mm and most of his crops still delivered well. So the season isn’t necessarily set poor … not yet, at least !
Having said that, most crops on lighter land across our patch are really struggling and significant yield losses seem inevitable even if the drought breaks in the coming week. Many spring sowings, in particular, are looking horrendous.
Heavier land crops that got their feet down well last autumn are hanging on in there, though. They’re a good bit shorter than normal which may be no bad thing for many. And some second wheats, benefitting from earlier N in February when there was still decent moisture about, are again threatening to outshine neighbouring first wheats.
Providing we get some reasonable rain by mid-May most of our winter cereals should be OK. But, with plenty of Septoria lurking on the lower leaves, very warm temperatures and a much reduced splash distance – courtesy of short crops – we could easily see wheat disease levels explode with any rain.
While the yellow rust risk is fading fast, we’re clearly moving into brown rust territory now. So we’ll be looking to the particular disease-combating powers of bixafen-based, Boogie as our mainstay at T2. The greater green leaf-improving powers than other SDHIs we’ve seen in our SMART Farm trials will be much appreciated too as we do everything we can to minimise crop stress.
Most of our wheats had a robust PGR regime at T0 and less at T1, so hopefully they won’t be needing any extra attention to cope with a sudden growth surge from rapid nitrogen uptake when we do get some rain. But foliar magnesium will be a must to maximise green leaf retention and aid grain fill, and with the proven benefits of Nutriphite PGA at T3 in keeping roots going, we may try to bring some applications forward to T2 on more drought-prone ground.
As there’s so little nitrogen going in through the roots, in some cases we’re also considering applying 10kg/ha of urea a week or so after T2 – as soon as the crops have recovered their waxing – if we don’t get significant rain by then.
As far as the oilseed rape is concerned, we’ve really done all we can. From here on it’s really a matter of keeping our fingers crossed for enough rain to maintain pod numbers and ensure a decent fill. But not too much to batter the crops, of course !
Just like the cereals, the one thing this season really proves, yet again, is the importance of getting establishment right. Do this and, as it’s plain to see wherever you look, the crops have far more resilence in coping with yet another challenging spring.